Many people, especially as they age, will notice what looks like something faint floating in their field of vision.
WebMD explains that these ‘floaters’ are quite common and they can appear as dots, squiggly lines, webs, and rings.
They develop over time as collagen in the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye clump together and cast shadows on the retina. This fluid is called the vitreous, and it creates these clumps as it shrinks during the aging process. They are not usually dangerous and can come and go over time, but severe cases can be quite frustrating if they affect vision in a meaningful way.
In rare cases, these floaters can be a sign of a more serious condition such as eye disease, diabetic retinopathy, tumors, or injury. Harvard Medical School warns that as the vitreous shrinks it can begin to tug on the retina it is attached to as it pulls away. In some cases, this will tear the retina and can lead to retinal detachment and permanent vision loss. This situation will require immediate medical attention to avoid losing vision, and in most cases, the tear can be treated with either laser or cold therapies.
Treating the floaters themselves is not always a realistic option, and over time, most people seem to notice them less often. For those severe cases, the Mayo Clinic explains that there are two main ways to eliminate eye floaters: lasers and surgery. Using lasers, an ophthamologist can pinpoint specific floaters and try to break them up into less noticeable pieces.
Unfortunately, results with this treatment are mixed, and there is some risk of retina damage. The other option, surgery, involves removing the vitreous entirely and replacing it with a similar fluid to support the eye’s shape. Like the laser treatment, results are mixed, and new floaters can develop later. There are also risks of retinal tears and bleeding.